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Winging it: A first time Mums’ experience of breastfeeding all the way into toddlerhood (and beyond?)

I had no plans when it came to breastfeeding (or motherhood) other than I knew this was fundamental to my concept of, and if I’m honest, my own expectations of motherhood. I knew if I could, that I would absolutely breastfeed.

At first I didn’t find breastfeeding easy, although this was generated entirely by my own self doubt. I found in the very early days, that I would question how will my milk be enough to sustain this tiny little life I was now 100% responsible for?

At first I didn’t find breastfeeding easy, although this was generated entirely by my own self doubt.

It would be several months into motherhood, before I felt reassured that my milk was in fact enough as I watched as my little Bean thrived and grew to be quite chubby! It’s a super satisfying feeling to look at your baby during the first 6 months (before weaning) and think they’re surviving on their mum alone! #respect to mother nature.

As the Bean has now reached toddlerhood and is still being breastfed (my son is now 29 months) I have been told this means I am among a tiny minority of mother’s who continue feeding their baby’s beyond 1 year. To be specific, it is estimated that only 1% of  mother’s go on to feed their babies into toddlerhood!

As we have reached this point ourselves,  I thought I would take the time to reflect and jot down a few things and share them here in my blog. I don’t intend to relay stats and facts though, it is more a bunch of random musings on being a long-time breastfeeding Mum to my son.


Firstly, I have found breastfeeding on the whole, pretty easy and very practical. I soon discovered that I produced a lot of milk (squirting in his face kind of volumes!) and I have never ever, EVER felt uncomfortable feeding my son whenever he needed to be fed. Be this on the train, the plane, the tube, bus, you name it, I have probably, like the majority of breastfeeding Mums, fed him there.  Fundamentally, when we become mother’s we realise the true purpose of our breasts, which we should essentially be proud of.

In 29 months, I have only encountered one incident that made me feel a bit blue. The incident occurred in a cafe in Bristol.  A couple (in their 60s) seemed horrified by me feeding my son. They huffed and puffed and said a few crass things, but thankfully I was reassured by another couple on another table, who said it’s the “most natural thing you can do”. That was definitely a memorable experience. Overall I mostly felt that it was a shame that people can have these reactions to something that most of us feel is just beautiful and it shows they’re disconnected with nature.

The Perks:

Another benefit of breastfeeding that I have learnt is it’s convenience. If like me you are a touch disorganised (at times)  I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed the convenience of having Bean’s food on the go, where ever we go. I always point this out to Mum’s unsure about which option to choose, breast of formula. I cannot imagine waking in the middle of the night to make up a bottle of milk under such tiredness. Breastfeeding the Bean meant all I did was roll onto my side and he’d latch on. Breastfeeding is also an excellent opportunity to become a tele-addict or if you are already, to catch up with your series and box-sets!

Nutritious peace of mind:

Secondly, I love all the wonderful nutrients found in mothers milk, that nature literally tailors to your baby’s own specific needs. No matter what the mum eats, the milk will still be the most nutritious thing your baby could consume, even if mum lives on fast food.  Therefore, breast milk ensures you can provide a genuinely pure and safe diet that you trust, to offer your baby (are you listening NESTLE!). In a world where food seems to have lost its identity, in which we seem to rely heavily on ‘foods’ that have been processed (that we sadly see at the norm), I am truly glad I have been able to breastfeed my son for this long length of time. And even more so considering he is not the best eater- at least he is still having a bit of milk!

Breastfeeding also keeps the mum healthier- honestly, I have hardly had anything more than a cold since my son was born. Additionally, when we breastfeed our body releases Oxycontin, the feel good hormone connected with love and happiness- which I will talk a bit more about later.

ZZZZZZZZZZ….(morning feed) 

Third, if it means you get an extra couple of hours in the morning, I am game for the morning feed. Now that my son is hitting two and a half, I wonder whether we should drop this part of our ‘routine’.  Nearly every morning around 6AM he wakes me, says “booby“, has a drink, then falls back to sleep until a super civilised 9AM-woohoo! Am I addicted to these lies ins? Probably! But don’t worry, I am finally starting to see his interest in booby declining (albeit very slowly)  and I guess we are gearing up to gently ‘wean’  each other off the booby.

Working and breast feeding toddler hood can work: 

While I have no set time frame for feeding initially, I did read a report by the World Health Organisation, recommending mother’s breastfeed their baby up until they’re 2-years old. I know it sounds ambitious in a very fast paced world, one in which mother’s are expected to return to work within a year, but I can vouch for this and say you can work part or full time and continue to breastfeed. You will just have to feed according to your new routine.

How to get him out of the ‘habit’ of having booby:

Possibly what I have been thinking about a lot recently is how will I wean the Bean off the boob? This conundrum is one I am still unsure about how to answer? Basically let’s just say, the boob is his COMFORTER, which means I am his comforter.

Of course sometimes I can get claustrophobic and wish he’d taken to a bottle or enjoyed his soother, but he didn’t and also, the times that I do end up feeling like this, there is generally some other outside pressure that most of us working parents will know. This is just part of modern life.

Luckily, I treat breastfeeding as down time, a time where I sit still, and often do a bit of research. To this end, is has been an incredible benefit, as in this time (2+years) I managed to do the prep for ingreens, my small business!

Weaning the Bean off the boob does worry me at times, not deeply, but I do wonder how it’ll happen. And yet like most of this parenting malarkey, it’ll probably just happen organically without much intervention.

I have left him with his grandparents over night on more than a few occasions, and he’s been fine, in fact he slept until 9AM the last time this happens, which did get me thinking if the smell of my milk is keeping him awake?

The final thing I think about when the breastfeeding journey of ours finally ends is, will I miss the Oxytocin?

 It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction in both sexes, and during and after childbirth.[4] Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream as a hormone in response to stretching of the cervix and uterus during labor and with stimulation of the nipples from breastfeeding.[5] This helps with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production. Source: Wikipedia 

I mean this is a seriously beneficial hormone that academics and researchers think could actually ward off post-natal depression (some even citing not breastfeeding as a major contributing factor in developing PND in the first place, but this is another debate, for another time).

I do wonder if I will feel depressed or less balanced, as I have felt very happy since becoming a mother and have only ever known motherhood as a breast feeder. I was not always this balanced, I used to experience extreme mood swings around the time of the month. Although I do have to say that giving up dairy (I was already a non-meat eater) seems to have balanced me out in this regard a LOT!

As with everything else on this journey of motherhood, I am going with the flow, trying to stay true to myself, follow my gut, be guided by my son’s needs and remember that nature should come second to none.

 

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Castell Carreg Cennen

While I predominantly use this platform to share ideas on sustainable living occasionally I like to share snippets of my family life and our days out.  And what better family day out is there than a visit to a very old Castle on the top of a mountain in Wales.

Castell Carreg Cennen has been one of my favourite places to visit for a long time. I think it is the combination of driving through the black mountains which is a beautiful experience in itself and then being the first person to spot the castle in the distance as you get closer.

I was not  that invested in history lessons when at school, perhaps they focused too heavily on Welsh chapels, workhouses, Welsh Not (which is quite a fascinating period of linguistic history and makes me proud to be a Welsh speaker) but overall didn’t take the subject very seriously or treat it with the interest and fascination I do now. I think if history lessons took place in castle’s like Carreg Cennen then as a subject it would be a lot more popular.

I have always loved visiting Castles and Castell Carreg Cennen is one I feel I will always revisit. Plus on my most recent visit on Easter Sunday we discovered they offer bottomless coffee, an American concept that is actually appreciated when you are parents to a curious and feisty toddler.

The car park at the bottom leads you to the cafe and shop, before you climb the steep but really easy walk up to the ruins. I love cafe’s and especially ones where everything on offer is homemade. The smells from the kitchen were divine. We had coffee, soup, sandwiches and lots of cakes were enjoyed. The only tiny qualm I have is that their menu was limited if you avoid dairy or are vegan:( (no dairy-free milk options either- but it’s OK I have become used to  black coffee).

The views from the top are just sublime: rolling hills, farms, sheep, lots and lots of sheep and as it’s Spring, lambs too. All shades of green, clouds changing from light blues to ominous greys and of course we experienced a few rain clouds bursting above is- when in Wales…

And although the Bean was determined to stay fixed in his poppoo on his father’s back, in the end it was probably the best place for him. The castle has some very steep steps and not really suitable for  a 20-month old to roam freely. Luckily, he seemed intent on being very lazy which gave us the chance to take in the views from the many vantage points.

You can explore the surrounding areas and there are longer walks you can do to reach the castle starting from nearby Trappe and Llandeilo if you want to integrate the castle into a walking expedition.  Both of these little communities are worth a visit, and I am told that Llandeilo has a brilliant Gin bar!

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Pottering and peace

Sometimes days spent doing ‘nothing’ but pottering: picking flowers, wandering around, eating avocados and drinking lots of your favourite teas are the most peaceful and turn out to be your favourite of all. This has been our Easter Monday, and while we accomplished two walks and visited a castle over the Easter weekend, I have enjoyed the slow, meditative pace of just being today.

Breakfast: avocados, chilli, lime and spinach cooked in garlic
On the Sunday we visited Castell Carreg Cennin

In fact, I think I appreciated it all the more because it started off quite catastrophically with three of us being knocked down again with a bout  of diarrhea and vomiting. The three of us, Bean, my mum and myself were out for at least 36 hours but thankfully made a full recovery in time for Good Friday and the festivities that were ahead. (It’s really frustrating being ill ahead of a long awaited party or long national holiday isn’t it?)

The Bean loves to forage for flowers

Although there has been busyness and lots of food has been eaten and drinks drank, one of my favorite parts was this afternoon when the Bean and I simply walked up and down and an old canal picking flowers, looking at the trees, the berries, the flowers about to bloom and the splashes of colour everywhere. Then we arrived back at the house drank tea, played and felt very serene and calm, a feeling that lasted all day long.

 

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Cafe W

I love Cafe W.

Cafe W is Waterstone’s cafe, in the centre of Bristol. It’s really chilled, has great food and family, kid and toddler friendly (look↓ it even has  a slide).

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Since its hard to completely escape the need to go into your city centre (believe me I have tried), and if you do have toddlers and young people who need to vent a bit of their pram-cabin-fever frustration (fair do’s) I urge you to see whether your local Waterstone’s has their own family friendly retreat. It could be the difference between a good shopping trip and a bad one. And so far into motherhood, a bad one is the reason I hadn’t visited my own city centre for over 3-months!!

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Bean exploring the books

Cafe W is perfect especially if it’s raining. OK my Bean inevitably still runs off and I have to chase him mid coffee sip, with a mouthful of their really yummy caramel slice (VG) but the slide, the dressing up box and the coloring in table might just keep them occupied long enough for you to sit down, gather your thoughts, enjoy your drink, eat some cake and reminisce about your favourite books from childhood. Which incidentally were all around me on our last visit.

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Soya latter and a vegan caramel slice

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I am sure there are others in the centre of Bristol that I have yet to discover. Perhaps I will check Foyles next time-am I stereotyping book shops?

But I think Cafe W is my fav. Their coffee is really great, and they serve bombay Railway chai which,  if you’ve not tried, is immense, as well as chocolate tea (omg). They offer at least one vegan cake, and have lots of gluten free options,  their kids menu is pretty good and it’s very reasonable-I never spend more than £7. 

And if you really wanted to (which did occur to me on my last visit) you could sneak in a cheeky slice of your favourite cake from Ahh Toots …but I implore you to try Cafe W’s drinks, their awesome.

***Plus they serve water from a canister where you can easily refill your flask, offer a flamboyant selection of loose teas and utilise minimal plastic.

 


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A lot of luna love for the Mooncup

I decided that I would use a menstrual cup a few years ago, just before I realised I was pregnant in fact (doh). If you’re still on the cusp and need any convincing about the benefits it will make to your life and crucially our beautiful planet, read the following:

  • Women produce approximately 11,000 sanitary towels in their reproductive lifetime
  • Producing 200,000 tonnes of waste annually
  • They ALL contain plastic
  • Most pads are 90% plastic: filling landfill, where they will take years to biodegrade or worse
  • End up in our rivers and oceans where they will contaminate water, sea-life and ultimately our eco-system

To put the last point in perspective:

In 2010, a UK beach clean found an average of 23 sanitary pads and 9 tampon applicators per kilometre of British coastline.

Source: WEN.org


I didn’t have a ‘proper’ period postnatally until the Bean stopped breastfeeding for about half a day. This seemed to trigger their return (apparently prolactin, the hormone released when producing breast milk keeps our periods at bay as it keeps our ovaries asleep and has a bit of a contraceptive pill effect-although that said, mine seemed pretty determined to return as soon as they could 🙁 …). In fact, breastfeeding in general has meant my periods were irregular until the Bean reached 8-months. At which point I was finally able to accommodate my new -and what would become my invaluable friend- into my monthly cycle properly.

12-months+ of Mooncupping

I have now been using the Mooncup for a whole year. In this time, I’ve gone from experiencing mild anxiety before removing it (it takes a bit of practise. For me, when trying to remove it,  it was opening quickly and the blood was spilling out. This did lead to a few embarrassing scenarios involving blood on my trousers, but be mindful: I am super clumsy, which will definitely make a difference) all the way to becoming, quite frankly, a bit of a pro at inserting/removing it, and avoiding aforementioned messy situations (most of the time). And I found myself falling a little more in love with the Mooncup with each passing Flo…and here’s why:

  1. Sustainability- I just love that it is self-contained and literally an all-in-one product that answers our needs. You need water to clean it, but that’s it.
  2. Longevity- It’s said to last for a very long time, upto 10-years in some cases!
  3. Economics- I paid £22 for mine, and I must have saved a LOT of money already by no longer buying pads
  4. Practicality-It’s just perfect for any kind of lifestyle : on the go or sedentary
  5. Transportability- I put it in its little pouch and away we go. And to date, I have not forgot to take it on my jaunts! In fact I think I’d sooner buy a second Mooncup should this happen, than buy sanitary towels again. They’re so small that they really are easy to put in your bag and GO!
  6. And I love the little cotton pouch all Mooncup’s come in **obviously**

GRASSROOTS:


The more I use it, the more
I lament the amount of sanitary pads I must have sent to landfill. Why aren’t Mooncup’s (and all menstrual cups) normalised in school’s when we were young women, and being educated about menstruation.

It’s surely time that the education of women’s menstrual products and the production of waste go hand in hand together. We need to create a new dawn: the next generation of citizens to whom being sustainable is normal. Furthermore, why aren’t menstrual cups promoted more in family planning clinics and even surgery waiting rooms? It’s time for change.

What did women use before the invention and commercialisation of sanitary towels?

A brief history of menstrual pads. Extract taken from Eco Menstrual:

  • Animal pelts
  • Mosses (see the episode of ‘The Victorian Farm’? Moss is extremely absorbent they say!)
  • Grasses
  • Sea sponges
  • Seaweed

**Native cultures continue to use many of the above today.

Textiles: Among the poorer members of society old rags were often used – this is the origin of the term “on the rag”. Once mass manufacturing of textiles and garments became possible, as well as “more modern” laundering methods, manufactured cloth pads became available (mid 1800 to about 1940).

Also popular were underwear with built in sanitary pads, which were not unlike adult sized nappies.

Washable pads and sea sponges have been re-discovered and menstrual cups were a wonderful innovation.

The Keeper was the first to be manufactured in 1987 in latex rubber and several other companies followed suit making them in silicone rubber. (Many reported allergic reactions to latex rubber).

Women are having increasing concerns about health and awareness of environmental issues related to disposable products.

The modern tampon was developed in the early 1900s and remains the most popular disposable menstrual product today.


Size, material and packaging:

The Mooncup is available in two sizes and is made of medical grade silicone. It comes in a little cotton bag to transport it in and this is sold in a little paper box. It is said to last for as many as ten-years. 

A lifestyle shift

Periods are natural. A bleached plastic sanitary towel is not. – WEN.org

The Mooncup has properly changed my life. As mentioned, the journey from the Mooncup fitting comfortably into my new routine was forestalled by some mildy tricky situations. I think I would advise you to:

  1. Practise inserting it to grow in confidence 
  2. Be patient
  3. Get to know your Flo

I would advise practicing with the Mooncup before taking it abroad, wearing it to work, or in my case on a plane, for the very first time. Try if you can, to wear it when you’re in the house and then in places you feel most comfortable.  This means you can get use to it and how it feels.

It felt funny wearing the Mooncup for the first few Aunt Flo’s, which was also distracting. I am a bit of a worry wart, plus have always suffered with very, very heavy Flo. You might even find, especially if you’ve been a tampon user (never successfully inserted one:(  ) up until the point you convert to a Mooncup, that insertion is easy and you aren’t even aware it’s there.

1.Practice inserting and removing the Mooncup as it needs to be removed carefully to avoid spilling the collected blood everywhere. *TOP TIP*: When out and about try to locate a mum and baby, disabled or toilet with sink in. This is something a lot of people pointed out that they found the Mooncup awkward when there nowhere you could wash it.

2.Be patient and let your vagina get used to it. Like I said, it felt really funny for me at first. I did have an episiotomy, but not sure this would still have been affecting me 8-months on. But this ‘funny’ feeling fast disappears and I started to feel really emancipated. 

3.Get to know your Flo. I realised I lost a lot more blood than I thought. (Another great reason for using a mooncup: it keeps things real. You get to see your blood loss close-up.  I needed to know how often to empty it (this will inevitably be different for each individual) and until I got used to it there were a few incidents of leakag. I simply got to understand my Flo and when it would peak-generally day 2 and 3 would be really full-on. 

ONE MORE BENEFIT:

If you were previously a sanitary towel user, think how often you would change them and how many you would need to carry around with you. The Mooncup is small, discreet and you can leave it in for upto 8-hours if it suits your Flo!

A very brief history of the Mooncup landing and other fun facts:

  • Mooncup was founded in 2002 by two friends Su and Eileen
  • In 2017 the Mooncup is available in 50 countries
  • The first store to stock the Mooncup was Infinity in Brighton
  • The Mooncup won the award for Best Non Food product at The Natural Trade show in 2003
  • In 2003 word spreads across Europe about the Mooncup and grassroots movements in Spain promote its use
  • Due to customer demands, Boots starts to stock the Mooncup
  • In 2006 Mooncup received its first full-page news coverage  in the Times
  • The Love your Vagina campaign hits the London Underground creating an impressive social media buzz in 2010
  • Mooncup became employee owned in 2014

Some interesting links for further reading:

Eco Menstrual

Women’s Environmental Network

The cost of periods: Guardian & Huffington